Finland's Nokian Tyres defends move to retain control of Russian factory

A Nokian tyre is on display at a tyre assembling centre and shop in Moscow
A Nokian tyre is on display at a tyre assembling centre and shop in Moscow, August 8, 2014. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

HELSINKI, March 22 (Reuters) - Finland's Nokian Tyres PLC (TYRES.HE) said on Tuesday it would continue production in Russia to retain control of its local factory, at a time when many companies are halting operations in protest at Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

"By continuing to operate the passenger car tyre factory in Russia we want to make sure that the factory is operated and controlled by Nokian Tyres also in the future," it said.

The company also said this would also help ensure its products were not used for military purposes.

Before the Ukraine war, Nokian produced about 80% of the 20 million tyres it makes a year in Russia. It makes passenger car tyres in Russia, while tyres for heavier vehicles are made in Finland or elsewhere.

Shares in Nokian fell as much as 13% on Monday, after Helsingin Sanomat daily and other Finnish media reported that the company had seemed to tell analysts in a call last week that it would seek to win market share from rivals that are exiting Russia, such as Michelin, Continental and Bridgestone, or those curtailing activities there, such as Pirelli. read more

Nokian denied this on Tuesday. "On Sunday Nokian Tyres was in the spotlight in the media regarding an analyst call," it said, saying it was now making a "correction to the media".

Nokian Chief Executive Jukka Moisio told Helsingin Sanomat in an interview published on Monday that the company did not want its Russian factory to end up "in wrong hands" to avoid its Russian factories being used to make tyres for the military.

"In our opinion it is better that the factory is in our control than in someone else's," Moisio told the paper.

Russia's ruling party said this month a government commission had approved the first step towards nationalising assets of foreign firms that leave the country. read more

Nokian said it would seek to boost capacity more swiftly at its factories in Finland and in the United States and would look for additional capacity elsewhere.

It said all tyres sold in the Nordic countries in future would be made in Finland and tyres sold in North America would be made in the United States or Finland. It added that it aimed to make its manufacturing more geographically diversified.

Reporting by Anne Kauranen; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Edmund Blair

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.